(By Brandon Hansen/Chewelah Independent)
First committee deadline was Feb. 1…
A number of gun control bills are continuing to move through the Washington State Legislature as the short 60 day session reaches its mid-point. Feb. 1 marked the deadline for bills to exit their committee of origin, giving some representatives the confidence to announce the demise of certain gun control bills.
According to Representative Matt Shea from the Spokane Valley, a number of negative gun control proposals “died in committee” last week including a proposal to ban magazines that hold more than 10 rounds (House Bill 2422/Senate Bill 6049) and a proposal to make it unlawful for someone to carry a concealed firearm into another person’s home without express permission (SB 6415).
A bill that would have allowed local governments to have stricter gun control (HB 2666/SB 6146) was also not voted out of committee.
“The good news is these bills are dead, but this is just dress rehearsal for next year when they will be brought back with a vengeance,” Rep. Shea said in a Facebook update last week.
A number of gun control bills are still “alive” and may advance through the legislative process.
One bill that has garnered a lot of attention and is being backed by the Washington State Attorney General would call for enhanced background checks and licenses for anyone buying a modern sporting semi-automatic rifle (SB 5444).
The bill would put the same restrictions on semi-automatic rifles as handguns.
Currently in Washington State, an individual must be 21-years old to purchase a handgun. Handgun purchases require a waiting period of up to 10 days to allow for local law enforcement to run a background check on state mental health records. The bill is seeking to classify semi-automatic rifles as “assault weapons” and prohibit their sale to 18-year-olds and require a waiting period until all background checks have cleared.
Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said semi-automatic rifles are more likely to be used in mass shootings.
“Military-style assault weapons are 11 times more likely to be used in a mass shooting than other types of weapons. They are seven times more likely to kill law enforcement. Assault weapons are five times less likely to be used in self-defense,” Ferguson said in a press release.
Ferguson cited the incident of a 19-year-old gunman who took the lives of three Mukilteo teens in 2016 who purchased his AR-15-style assault weapon from a Tulalip Cabela’s. He walked into the store and walked out with the assault weapons and high-capacity magazines the same day. He committed the mass shooting just four days later.
Gun control advocates say they are “thrilled” that the legislation is moving forward.
“We are thrilled to see these bills moving through the process,” said Katy Klein of Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility. “Our goal is to save lives by keeping guns out of dangerous hands and changing the culture so people can talk about gun violence.”
Another bill the Alliance for Gun Responsibility is closely watching (SB 5553) would allow individuals to voluntarily have their names put on a prohibited gun purchaser list if they are concerned they may purchase a firearm during a moment of crisis or suicidal intent.
Both Senate Bill 5444 that restricts the purchase of semi-automatic rifles and the voluntary suicide-prevention gun bill have hearings scheduled for this Friday, Feb. 9.
But while some are celebrating the movement of gun control laws, other groups are encouraging their members to actively oppose some.
Short urges action
In regards to the gun bills still alive in the 2018 legislative session, Senator Shelly Short is urging her constituents to continue to send letters, write emails and make phone calls regarding the gun control proposals.
“Although some of the gun control bills may not have survived the first deadline, the Democrats have the ability as the majority party to bring back any of the bills while we are still in session,” Short said. “People who are concerned about these proposals need to continue to be active and stay vigilant.”
To contact the Seventh Legislative District Representatives on gun legislation, visit www.leg.wa.gov or call the legislative hotline at 1-800-562-6000.
GUN CONTROL BILLS TO WATCH
The National Rifle Association put out a call to action to its members on Sunday, warning them that several bills had made it out of committee and may continue in the legislative process. In addition to opposing the semi-automatic rifle bill, the NRA said they were concerned about these pieces of proposed legislation:
Substitute Senate Bill 5441: Sponsored by Senator Patty Kuderer (D-48), would impose a 6-month firearm prohibition for any person who has been released from a 72-hour mental health evaluation. Current law allows a person to be held for a limited time in order for a mental health professional to determine if the individual, based on allegations of a mental health or substance abuse disorder, is in need of treatment or further commitment. At the end of the evaluation, individuals who are not in need of treatment are released. SB 5441 would apply the prohibition of firearm possession to all released individuals, and requires the immediate surrender of all firearms and any concealed pistol license to law enforcement. “This legislation removes a constitutional right without any mental health adjudication or judicial determination, and without any due process of law,” the NRA said.
Senate Bill 6298: Sponsored by Senator Manka Dhingra (D-45), would expand the list of domestic violence offenses that prohibit firearm possession to also include “Harrassment.” The NRA took issue with the broad application of harassment laws in Washington.
“The definition of harassment under Washington State law is so broadly defined that it includes 37 other crimes, many of which involve no form of actual contact or threat of harm to a person,” the NRA noted. “Under this legislation, even the offenses of graffiti and trespass fall within this umbrella category that could result in a firearm prohibition. Imposing an automatic, blanket ban on constitutional rights for these wildly varying offenses is excessive and unwarranted.”
Senate Bill 5992: Sponsored by Senator Kevin Van de Wege (D-24), was originally introduced as a trigger modification device ban that would have criminalized modifications commonly made to firearms by law-abiding citizens. Instead, the legislation was amended on the Senate floor to narrow down the definition of the ban to apply only to bump-fire stock attachments. This bill has been scheduled for a public hearing in the House Judiciary Committee on February 9th at 8 a.m.